Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to rise and speak to Bill S-4.
As my colleague mentioned a couple of minutes ago, I too have very serious concerns that here we are in a parliamentary democracy with elected MPs sent here by their constituents to do the work of Parliament, and Conservatives have brought forward a bill introduced by the unelected Senate. It sort of begs this question. What was the real agenda behind doing this? Was it to fast-track it? Was it to try to give the Senate some sense of credibility as it goes through some very difficult and challenging times?
Nevertheless, it is about process, and now that I have made my point, I also want to make the point that in Parliament, as my colleague across the way pointed out, there is a natural rhythm as to how bills are introduced in the House and debated. The government, in its wisdom, first took a Senate bill instead of spending the time, of which it has a lot, to bring forward its own bill. It took a Senate bill and, even before second reading, basically declared that it was not willing to accept any amendments, which really makes one wonder what the purpose has been behind a lot of legislation.
Now I know that my colleagues across the way have an allergy to evidence, science, and data and do not really like listening to all the expert witnesses that are flown in to appear before committees. The interesting thing is that even before they heard from those witnesses, they started to make comments such that they did not want to accept any amendments because if they did, the bill would have to go back to the Senate. It does not seem to me to be a good reason to bring forward legislation that is poorly thought out.
I am not saying it is not needed. It is.
As a matter of fact, my esteemed colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville introduced Bill C-475, which would have actually addressed many of the concerns that Canadians want addressed. That is an example of a well-thought-out bill that would not overreach but would actually do the job that is needed, which is to modernize our code of conduct around personal information. With the advent of electronic and digital media, we absolutely need some changes.
Getting back to the bill, once again, it is a process that is flawed. Experts came forward and gave testimony. I sometimes wonder, if the government's mind is already made up that it is not going to accept any amendments, what the purpose is of flying in experts to present their testimony. To me, that is the highest sign of disrespect. It basically says the government has already made up its mind, but just to make witnesses feel better, it will hear from them. That is really bad form.
Here is something else. The NDP put forward 18 amendments, well thought out and researched, supported by the evidence that was presented and by experts; and other people presented 14 other amendments. True to their commitment or the bizarre statement before the bill got debated, there were zero amendments accepted by my colleagues across the way. So much for committees working with consensus.
I have often heard ministers from the other side of the House say they have to rush things through the House because at committee stage experts will be heard and that is when we get to have the really meaty debates. I have never bought that, and evidence bears out that it is not how committees work. Despite hearing expert witnesses and hearing from the opposition, the Conservative government accepted zero amendments, and that says a lot about the process.
Now the bill is back in the House, and we are debating it, but once again, there is time allocation. The government could have moved on the bill over the last number of years, but it chose not to. Here we are in the last three weeks, when suddenly the Conservatives have rediscovered that they had better do something. After all, it is election time. They are now moving time allocation to prevent the Canadian public from knowing what is really in the bill. One way to do that is to limit and shut down debate, which seems to be a very common move by the government.
Here are some facts and figures. The Conservatives made 1.2 million requests to telecommunication companies to obtain Canadians' personal information in just one year. Some 70% of Canadians feel less protected today than they did 10 years ago. With this bill, they have reason to feel even more concerned and worried, because now there are all kinds of loopholes in the bill whereby their information can be shared way beyond the person they give it to.
Some 97% of Canadians say they would like organizations to let them know when breaches of personal information occur. That is reasonable, but if companies are giving away data themselves, I personally see that as a breach, because they have breached my trust, because I gave the data to them. We have some concerns around that as well. Some 80% of Canadians say they would like the stiffest possible penalties to protect their personal information, and 91% of respondents—not 51%, not 41%, not 21%, but 91%—are very or extremely concerned about the protection of privacy. It seems to me that the government should be paying some attention to what Canadians are feeling and their fears.
There was also a Supreme Court ruling, on June 13, 2014, pertaining to the sharing of personal information. The Supreme Court stipulated that subscriber data, including name, address, email address, phone number, ID address, et cetera, cannot be disclosed to a third party without a warrant. In light of this decision, the constitutionality of certain provisions in Bill S-4 is questionable.
I am sitting here thinking that a government that really wanted to do due prudence would actually pay attention to the fact that the Supreme Court had made a ruling. Despite that ruling, we did not see any amendments from the Conservatives, nor were they willing to accept any of ours, which really lets me know that to pander to their friends, they are willing to sell out Canadians, they are willing to ignore the Supreme Court ruling, and they are burdening hard-working taxpayers with future challenges in the courts, because that is where this will certainly end up.
The NDP believes that Canada needs a mandatory data loss or data breach reporting mechanism based on objective criteria. We are not the only ones who are saying that. Witness after witness said that we need the Privacy Commissioner to have some powers over this.
Huge companies get our data through nefarious means, some of them very innocent, like when we pay bills with a credit card. They not only get what we paid and where we bought something but all that micro-targeting information can now be moved on to other companies when a company deems fit. To me, that is just not acceptable.
I would urge my colleagues across the way to not ignore Canadians or the Supreme Court ruling. Let us make sure that we address the deficiencies in this bill.